EXPERT DECRIES BANK CHARGES ON RETURNED CHEQUES AS ILLEGAL

Mr. Ori Adeyemo, a forensic accountant and crusader for streamlined bank charges, has decried bank charges on returned cheques and described the fee deducted from accounts in consequence of returned cheques as illegal.

“It is trite that by virtue of Section 10, subsection of the defunct Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Bankers’ Tariff, a bank is allowed to charge N1,000 for a returned corporate cheque whilst debiting N300 for a returned individual cheque (to be borne by the drawer),” Adeyemo said.

“It is also true that by the provision of Section 11, subsection 6 of the subsisting CBN Guide To Bank Charges effective January 01, 2004, a returned cheque attracts 0.5 per cent of amount, maximum N5,000 (to be borne by the drawer).

“In both cases,” Adeyemo argued, “the CBN guidelines stipulate that only the drawer of a cheque should be penalised for a returned cheque and not the supposed beneficiary (who never took value for consideration anyway.)  Unfortunately, we all know that this situation is not true in Nigeria as banks whimsically charge both the drawer and drawee for a returned cheque, thereby amounting to double-jeopardy especially for the drawee who never took any benefit.”

 Affirming the contradiction in the statutes relating to fees sanctions as a result of returned chques, Adeyemo said: “I must emphasise that the CBN is wrong to have inserted returned cheque fee into the defunct Bankers’ Tariff as well as the subsisting CBN Guide To Bank Charges being in crass breach of the Dishonoured Cheque (Offences) Act of May 20, 1977, which makes it a nullity for the following reasons:

a.     That a returned cheque is a criminal offence and not a civil offence.

b.    That only the injured party (that is, the supposed beneficiary) has a right to complain about a returned cheque to the Nigeria Police or better still, the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and definitely not a bank.

c.     Returned Cheque Fee is a penalty which only a court of competent jurisdiction can impose on a citizen of the country. 

d.    No party to a contract can impose any form of penalty/fine on other parties to a contract as doing so is repugnant to natural justice.  

e.     That a bank has no special or pecuniary interest in a returned cheque being just a clearing vehicle for a deposited cheque.

f.     That Section 9 of the subsisting CBN Guide to Bank Charges, clearing of cheque or draft in Nigeria is free.  Moreover, no bank can charge any fee for collecting any deposit in Nigeria.

g.    That according to the Dishonoured Cheque (Offences) Act of May 20, 1977, upon conviction; an individual is liable to two-year jail term without an option of fine while for a body corporate a penalty/fine of not less than N5,000.

h.     Only the Attorney-General of a state (without excluding the Attorney-General of the Federation) has a right of criminal prosecution of a defaulter and definitely not a bank.

i.      That Section 25 of the Interpretation Act (which provides that a person shall not be punished twice when guilty of an offence under more than one enactment) shall apply in respect of offences under this act.

j.      Since this Section 11.6 of the subsisting CBN Guide to Bank Charges as it relates to a bank charging its customer Returned Cheque Fee is in breach of the Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act being a legislation of the National Assembly, the Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act will prevail.

“In simple language, I am saying that since a bank is not a party to a returned cheque, then such bank cannot lay claim to it.  We should cast our mind to the law of privities of contract wherein it is clearly stated that only parties to a contract can sue for the enforcement of a contract and not even those in whose interest the contract was made,” Adeyemo insisted.

“You will agree with me that the initial beneficiary of a clearing cheque is the bank that went to clear the cheque that should have taken custody value for the drawee but that alone does not give room for the bank to lay any claim on the money since the bank is not the real beneficiary of the fund but just a mere custodian.

“Therefore, I cannot but submit that the present CBN Guide to Bank Charges, is fraught with illegalities to the crass detriment of bank customers thereby allowing banks to smile away at all times, leaving the customers short-changed.  In fact, this was one of the issues I had wanted to address in May 2008 at the House of Representatives’ probe of the banking industry until it was fraudulently compromised by the banking cabal working in concert with the then leadership of the House Committee on Banking & Currency.”

Adeyemo argued that on account of the subsisting convention of fee sanctioning for returned cheques, he had been demanding a review of the CBN Guide to Bank Charges: “I cannot but request for a thorough review of the CBN Guide to Bank Charges wherein the opinion of every stakeholder in the industry will be accommodated as against the present one which was drafted by Mr. Jim Ovia, the Zenith Bank Plc Managing Director and so wholesomely adopted by the CBN without any input from the bank customers, thereby skewing the graph in favour of the banking industry.

“In simple words, I submit that it is totally illegal for any Nigerian bank to penalize a customer for a returned cheque, as doing so will translate to the fact that the banks have become laws unto themselves, having illegitimately taken over the job of the judiciary,” Adeyemo submitted. 

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One Response

  1. The issue of double jeopardy abounds almost everywhere in our banking system. I agree that we should start dismantling these unnecessary charges by the banks on their customers. Another area that comes to mind is the multiple charges on customers for borrowed funds.
    Our banks fail to realise that these charges discourage businesses from growing and hence indirectly kill our economy.

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